tinkering


One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite musicals, “Man of La Mancha,” goes like this:

“Whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it’s going to be bad for the pitcher.”

Well in the case of the pticher pictured below, it wasn’t a stone, but rather the backyard patio floor that it made contact with, and yes, it was bad for the pitcher.

The pitcher was on the patio table the night of last week’s hellacious winds, and just as I was not smart enough to heed the weather advisories and take down the adirondack chair I’d put on the roof last summer, so was I not smart enough to close the patio table umbrella, which at some point during that mostly sleepless night caught what must have been a pretty spectacular gust like a vertical sail, which then lifted up the entire table and moved it about three feet from where it had previously stood. Consequently, the pitcher — brought back from Italy by Susan during our 2007 cruise around that country’s seas — tumbled to its doom upon the concrete.

Dutifully I gathered up all the broken bits big and small and badly reassembled them — with the exception of that silver-dollar-sized hole in its belly, the pieces of which I can only list as missing and presumed pulverized.

These reconstructions are a strange habit which I’ve had for most of my life. I think the compulsion to reconstitute what’s been deconstituted is tied to that same unavoidable drive I had to “clean” the graffiti off our garage doors couple months back (and in turn make a bigger mess that the city eventually came and painted out — but it was MY mess, not the taggers). In this case, like the ladybug pot that also shattered that night, it’s not about fixing what’s broken or returning it to its previous unmarred fully functional state. My intent is driven by sentimentality not meticulousness. I mean… just look at it: it’s days as a liquid-bearing vessel are gone.

But its days not even nearly good as new, but better, have begun.

In these years of fading memory I can’t seem to recall the specfix of how I came to have this image below that I rediscovered this weekend whilst stumbling around my archives. My best recollection is that I found it via my fellow LA Metblogger Frazgo, either via a post he made on the find somewhere or from his Flickr photostream.

What is it? Well, I’m a little fuzzy on that as well. Obviously it’s a weathered treasure from the 1932 summer Olympic games here in L.A., but specifically I’m thinking that in the original image the badge was attached as an ornament  that adorned either the grille or the hood of a car from that time, and that the end result you see above is from my efforts in Photoshop to separate it out and stand it alone, maybe to put it on a shirt or a —.

[Sound of tires screeching]

Mystery solved! Instead of sitting here writing about scratching my head about it, I zipped over to Frazgo’s Flickr photostream and found the original image. Yep, it’s just as I’d thought.

Next stop: shirt creation!

Around the same time last summer that I made this night-long timelapse of a nocturnal cactus flower opening wide, I dropped a couple fallen prickly pear cactus pads into a small pot of soil and commenced spritzing them with water occasionally through the subsequent seasons in hopes that they might keep on going.

I’m pleased to report this morning that I have found the largest pad sporting a tiny bud about half the size of a thumbnail and growing strong (click to triplify):

bud.jpg

Plants are amazing!

It was Jo Gillis and the miracle of her “Charlie Brown” peach tree that got things started. Shortly after reading that post near the end of July I plopped into pots the pits of a pair of peaches (say that three-times fast) to see if they might grow, but so far nothing yet.

Jo later asked if I’d ever successfully grown an avocado from seed and I told her I’d previously and unsuccessfully attempted the same “drop, cover and hope” method as the peach pits and just for the heck of it googled “how to plant an avocado tree” and of course found out How To Plant An Avocado Tree. Passing on that link to her, she replied that she was going to give it a try and shortly thereafter so did I — aided in part by the seed of a store-bought Haas avocado that had already grown what the instructions call the “tap root.”

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That’s the one on the far left, above (click to quadruplify), which has since added additional roots. As you can see since we immersed that one on August 5, we’ve grown our collection to include the seeds of every avocado we’ve consumed since.  The one on the far right also had a tap root already in progress; the one left of center has cracked and a tap root is just beginning to emerge and the one right of center is the least developed of the quartet.

We’ve yet to come up with names for them.

Adding to the hopes for the long-haul success of this undertaking is the recent discovery of the removal of an amazing neighborhood avocado tree around the corner from us that I wrote about on Blogging.la in April 2006. While walking the dogs last week I was shocked and heartbroken to find the towering tree so fantastically laden with fruit the previous year had been completely and totally destroyed.

Here’s hoping one or more of these babies can be its replacement.

For months now I’ve secretly envied my friend and fellow cycling enthusiast Stephen because of a simple little device he put on his bike: a bell. No, not the thumb-driven kind you mount to your handlebars; he has one of those and so do I.

What he did was take a little dingaling-type bell and fix it to the underside of his saddle so it dangles there, ringing lightly whenever the condition of the road or his movement is enough to put it in play and thus making everyone in his immediate vicinity aware of his proximity. But beyond its capacity to alert, it’s also gotten to a point where to me the bell has become his signature. For example, during last Friday’s RIDE-Arc I heard the bell jingling as he was pulling alongside me and I didn’t even have to look over: I knew it was him. That’s an awesome safety feature when you think about it; I could keep my eyes front and let my ears tell me he was coming up along my left.

Historically speaking, I’d long seen this in use off-road among some of the more considerate mountain bikers I’d encounter, but I hadn’t seen it translated on-road and it’s something I’ve been meaning to experiment with… for want of a bell.

I know, I know : you’re thinking that bells aren’t that hard to come by and the type I was looking for could pretty much be extracted from any cat toy or inexpensively purchased so why the prolonged want? I have no answer other than it turns out I’ve had one in my possession all along. This one:

bell1.jpg

I can’t recall where I got it or how long I’ve had it, but it’s been around a long while, perhaps even going back to the ’80s. Most recently it’s been sitting within arm’s length on a bookshelf and the reason I hadn’t pressed it into service is that with the cat handle, it’s just too big for the bike. Then for whatever reason I picked it up a few minutes ago and gave it a twist and it turns out the handle screws onto the piece inside the bell that holds the… thingamagig: gonger, dinger, bonger, striker, toller. Whatever.

A few twists and the handle’s off but so disassembled is the rest of the trinket as well and now I’ll need an exact sized nut that’d fit the screw that goes through the bell’s top and then something that will attach to the nut on one end and provide a way to secure it to the bike via the other end. As luck (and a habit of saving spare nuts, bolts and such) would have it I found that exact nut and then Macgyver’d it tightly into one of those springy allen wrench holders, like this:

bell2.jpg

So that the end result looks something like this:

bell3.jpg

Perfect. And then with the help of a spare keychain o-ring goes onto the bike’s saddlebag it goes, like this:

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Like I mentioned earlier this is an experiment. I don’t know if the thing might fall apart after a couple miles or if it’s too big/loud a bell or perhaps not big/loud enough. I certainly don’t want to be incessantly dingalinging along as I roll down the street, nor do I want to have to do any extra work to force the bell to toll. So in the meantime I’ll keep my fingers crossed while piggybacking on Stephen’s excellent idea to see if things’ll sound just right.